--Chapter Four: Sport
Leo: (in Mario 64, Level 13, small) I’m so glad I got this N64 out again. It’s like a blast to the not-really-so-distant past! (He starts swimming) Now, let’s see if I remember how to get the stars here… step one: swim across the lake to the cannon. Step three: go around and—hey, wait… why would I remember that as step three, not two? There must be something I’m forgetting—
(A giant fish with sunglasses eats him whole.)
“Leo? Are you still playing that thing?”
The gray cat switched off the TV, and on a gesture from Aeris, he hit the console button, too.
Leo sighed. “I guess it’s time to move on. Wanna help me get this back in the closet?”
Aeris could easily pounce up and twist the closet doorknob. From there, the system was more or less pulley-based, the console’s original box and yarn set around on a coat hook acting as the chief mechanisms. Leo, on the ground, would take the yarn by his teeth and pull the console (by now pushed into its box) up to the appropriate shelf level. Aeris used her claws to climb up the shelves until she could gently push the N64 box into place. The last step was simple enough: Aeris would bite off the yarn attachment, to be wrapped and tied another day, then jump to the ground and land in the standard feline feet-first motion.
“There’s only one thing I don’t get,” said Leo, after the procedure was complete. “How do you tie those knots in the yarn? We don’t have opposable thumbs.”
“Elementary, my dear Leo,” said she with a note of pride. “But a lady’s entitled to keep some secrets.”
“Huh. Anyway, you wanna get some lunch?”
Aeris sighed. “Sure. And after that, I think we should go search for Scotty.”
“Search? You mean outside? In downtown Toronto?”
“We have no choice. Scotty’s been gone for two days, and our food supply is almost out… Yesterday would have been the grocery day.”
“Hm. Okay, but I’d have no idea where to start.”
“We start with his room,” she declared.
“What, you think he’s hiding under the bed or something?”
“No, Leo, but there might be some sort of clue there as to his whereabouts, like a journal or something.”
If Scott had a journal of his crimefighting activities, Leo had never heard of it. Besides, the artist seemed to leave on a spur of the moment thought—not something one would write down beforehand.
“Tell ya what,” said he. “I’ll get the lunch together. You can search the room in the meantime.”
Fifteen minutes later, Leo had liberated the cat food bag from the kitchen cupboard. He went into the bedroom to tell Aeris the meal was served. She was standing atop Scott’s art desk, next to the computer. Leo jumped up to her via the bed.
“Find anything?” he said, not really expecting an answer in the positive. Aeris did not pay attention to him, instead looking down at some of the artwork on the table. Leo followed her gaze to a cartoon picture of a red monster with bright yellow eyes.
Leo laughed and said, “It looks like a hairy thumb with horns.”
“Read the caption next to it,” said Aeris.
The cartoon bubble coming from the monster’s mouth read simply, “KRUG EAT JOO!”
“What do you suppose it means?”
Aeris shrugged. “I think he’s out looking for this thing.”
“Ooh, really? Now there’s a fight I’d want to see!”
“Leo, this isn’t a video game. Scotty could get seriously hurt. I mean, he said he met this thing the night the police dropped him; it must have really shook him up in the head.”
“So what should we do?”
Aeris got up on all fours. “We could do two things: stay here with little food and water and wait for Scotty to return, or go out and try to find him.”
“My vote goes for waiting here.”
“What? He could be anywhere in the city, or even out of it by now. We have no leads and no clues besides this cartoon. If we stay here, but we need more food, we can just beg next door or down the hall. For water, just work the sink like you do the doorknobs.”
“Okay, that solves two problems. But then what happens when the litter box gets full?”
Leo’s face straightened soberly in less than a second. “We gotta find Scott. And fast!”
“There’s that adventuring spirit.” Aeris smiled and jumped back to the ground. “I’ll turn on the TV. Let’s see if this Krug character has shown up anywhere recently, and go from there.”
Number Two and Number Three had plotted part two of their mission, and the process was already near completion. They talked in the former’s office, but each one kept a wary eye on the other being in their presence.
If there were nervous tension looming over the room, though, Krug was indifferent to it, biding his time by nonchalantly cleaning his fingernails with his spork.
Number Two: (mid-fifties, graying but not bald, shrewd wrinkles under the eyes) we’re ready to start planning phase three.
Number Three: (younger, slicked-back hair, subtle-but-large scar across the left cheek) Then we have confirmation that the entire list is in our possession, decoded?
Number Two: In our possession, yes. Decoded, no. The goons and computers are working it out. We’ll have it in time, don’t worry.
Number Three: Alright, we’ll move to phase three.
Number Two: This won’t be easy; we’re bound to get a lot of press, unless we can come up with a big enough distraction.
The two simultaneously approached Krug. The monster stopped the motion of the spork under his hand, but his expression remained blank.
“How would you like to do us a favor, Krug?” said Number Three, trying to sound as congenial as possible.
The response was an ominous monotone. “Krug was promised he would get to eat Fleshy Ones. It been four days and Krug eat nothing but metal. Krug want eat flesh.” His head turned slowly toward Number Three. “Krug will eat flesh.”
Number Two was glad the glance was not in his direction. He tried to calm Krug down. “Well, now’s your chance! Today you’ll get to eat some of the fattest, juiciest humans in Canada…”
(Two hours later at the Sky Dome, bleachers. Five fat guys sit in a row. One has a puffy Blue Jays hand, another holds a tub of nachos and cheese dip. The one on the end of the row is Fan 1. Other than these five, there are no people in the entire bleacher section—in other words, it’s not exactly a sold-out game.)
Fan 1: (hands cupped around mouth) HEY, BEER MAN!
(Krug walks over to them, wearing an apron and carrying a crate labeled “Molson’s.”)
Krug: What you want now?
Fan 1: Beer me, Beer Man!
Krug: Four-fifty. (The man hands him a five, and Krug gives him a tall plastic glass of beer.) That all for now?
Fan 2: Dude, tell the nacho guy to come back here. This tub’s almost out.
Krug: Gladly. (He walks away, talking to himself.) Yes, eat and drink, Fleshy One… get fatter and juicier before the seventh inning stretch… Krug finally gonna enjoy some human rump roast today… mm… big juicy rump roast…
Announcer: (over the loudspeaker) It’s the end of the sixth, folks, and it’s time to find the official Toronto Fan of the Game! So everybody out there get up and show some love for your Blue Jays, because today’s winner gets a season pass to Chinatown!
Fan 1: Woohoo! Chinatown, here I come! (He puts down his beer, takes off his shirt, and starts dancing on the bleacher.)
Krug: (looking back at him) Aw, no, don’t do that, Flesh Bag! Exercise make you tired and stringy!
Fan 1: Yeah! Go Blue Jays! (Swinging shirt over head) Yeah! Alright! WOOO!
(Krug sighs and puts down his beer case.)
Krug: Guess Krug gonna have to do this a bit early.
The images flashed before the stadium’s jumbotron to the tune of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.” First there were some cute children holding up a crudely drawn blue jay sign. Then there were some older fans, waving pennants and cheering. By the time the camera shifted to show the fat man on the bleacher, Krug was just jumping on top of him, tackling him to the ground. All over the stadium, people saw the slaughter live, as the monster, spork in hand, took to eating the man raw.
The corpulent victim’s four friends looked on in shock.
“Do you think we should help him?” asked one.
“I think we should get out of here…” said another.
The third was the voice of reason. “Guys, get a grip of reality, would ya? There is a whole case of Molson’s just sitting there on the ground, and the Beer Man’s distracted!”
The first pointed at the struggling victim and said, “But what about—”
The third patted him on the shoulder. “In distracting the Beer Man, he took one for the team. Now get over there and grab the beer.”
The news was all over Toronto by nightfall: “Carnage at the Sky Dome,” read the evening newspaper headline, beneath which was written, “Case of Beer Stolen On Scene.”
Number Two slapped the paper down on his desk and said, “Mission accomplished. That’ll keep the press occupied for months.”
“How did Krug manage to escape?” asked Number Three, ever the pressing one for details.
“He used the smoke bomb we gave him. He was able to steal a car and ditch the cops.”
(Flashback image: Krug pulls a guy out of his car à la Grand Theft Auto, gets in, slams the door, and starts running over pedestrians on the sidewalk. He yells, “Outta Krug’s way! It been six innings and Krug have to pee!”)
Number Three shuddered at the mental image, but he knew how important this was for the mission, so he kept his professional composure. “Are we going to need that monster after this, or can the law team clean up?”
Number Two smirked. “We’ll keep him around. Just in case, you know.”
Number Two allowed himself to appear more cocky than he actually was. “All my thinking is good, Number Three. Like the thinking that saved you from Krug’s wrath earlier in this very room. Learn from my reasoning, kid. You’ll find it comes in quite handy.”
“No doubt it’s a useful trait. Well, I’ll be going home, then. The final planning has to be done tomorrow.”
Number Two watched his partner leave the room. Still gazing at the door for a few minutes after Number Three had left, he wondered just what the young crime lord meant when he said, “useful trait.”
“Useful to whom?” Two asked himself. He could all too easily imagine Number Three plotting to increase his own status at the Firm by making sure a senior member had an accident… perhaps, just when the mission was through, there would be a mysterious gunshot from nowhere… Three did come across as the young, overly ambitious type who just might be stupid enough to try such a stunt in the vain hope of climbing the ladder. Well, if indeed he did try something, Two was not without his precautions. He genuinely felt that, should the need arise, his old age and treachery would prevail against most any foolhardy attempt on his career—or life.
He looked back down at the newspaper’s picture of the scene on the jumbotron and reflected, “Fools get what they deserve in the end, anyway.”